The closure of Tuolumne Meadows Campground comes a week after a child who camped elsewhere in Yosemite, one of America’s top tourist destinations, was hospitalised with the disease.
The case marked the first time a human was known to be infected with the centuries-old scourge, which is carried by rodents and the fleas that live on them, in California since 2006.
The campground will be closed from Monday through Friday of next week based on “new evidence of plague activity in animals”, Karen Smith, director of the California department of public health, said in a statement ::::
“On August 6, 2015, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced it is investigating a case of human plague in California and conducting an environmental evaluation in the Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite National Park, and the surrounding areas. The department began investigating this incident after a child from Los Angeles County became ill and was hospitalized after visiting the Stanislaus National Forest and camping at Crane Flat Campground in Yosemite National Park in mid-July. No other members of the camping party reported symptoms and health officials are continuing to monitor the child’s family and treatment providers. The child is recovering.” The Park said in a statement.
A Yosemite spokeswoman said the evidence was found in two dead squirrels. The youth diagnosed with plague had camped in July at the Crane Flat Campground, 27 kilometres north-west of Yosemite Valley.
That campground was closed and treated with insecticide. It reopened briefly but has been closed for 2 weeks while authorities investigate further. The child, who was visiting the park from Los Angeles County, was said to be recovering from the illness.
Ms Smith said that despite the recent discovery of plague in Yosemite, the risk to humans remained low and visitors were being advised on how to avoid transmission of the disease.
“Although this is a rare disease, and the current risk to humans is low, eliminating the fleas is the best way to protect the public from the disease,” Ms Smith said.
Health officials told park visitors to avoid walking or camping near rodent burrows, to wear long pants tucked into boots and to spray insect repellent containing the chemical diethyltoluamide, or DEET, on socks and pant legs.
Early symptoms of plague include high fever, chills, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin, according to the health department.
The last reported cases of human plague in California occurred in 2005 and 2006 in Mono, Los Angeles and Kern counties, the health department said. Two people have succumbed to plague this year in Colorado, according to health officials there.
In 2012, another disease carried by rodents, called hantavirus, sickened nine people, killing three of them. Most of those cases were linked to dust from mouse droppings in tent cabins at Yosemite’s Curry Village.
California Department of Public Health Investigates Human Plague Case
Full Press Release: August 8, 2015
California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith today announced the department is investigating a case of human plague in California, and conducting an environmental evaluation in the Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite National Park and the surrounding areas.
The department began investigating this incident after a child from Los Angeles County became ill and was hospitalized after visiting the Stanislaus National Forest and camping at Crane Flat Campground in Yosemite National Park in mid-July. No other members of the camping party reported symptoms and health officials are continuing to monitor the child’s family and treatment providers. The child is recovering.
Plague is an infectious bacterial disease that is carried by squirrels, chipmunks and other wild rodents and their fleas. When an infected rodent becomes sick and dies, its fleas can carry the infection to other warm-blooded animals or humans.
“Human cases of plague are rare, with the last reported human infection in California occurring in 2006,” Dr. Smith said. “Although this is a rare disease, people should protect themselves from infection by avoiding any contact with wild rodents. Never feed squirrels, chipmunks, or other rodents in picnic or campground areas, and never touch sick or dead rodents. Protect your pets from fleas and keep them away from wild animals,” Dr. Smith added.
CDPH is working closely with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Yosemite National Park and the U. S. Forest Service to investigate the source of the infection, and the patient’s travel history and activities during the incubation period.
As a precaution, Yosemite National Park will provide additional information to visitors about steps to prevent plague exposure, and post caution signs at the Crane Flat campground and nearby campgrounds. Steps the public can take to avoid exposure to human plague include:
- Never feed squirrels, chipmunks or other rodents and never touch sick or dead rodents
- Avoid walking, hiking or camping near rodent burrows
- Wear long pants tucked into socks or boot tops to reduce exposure to fleas
- Spray insect repellent containing DEET on socks and pant cuffs to reduce exposure to fleas
- Keep wild rodents out of homes, trailers, and outbuildings and away from pets.
Early symptoms of plague include high fever, chills, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin. People who develop these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention and notify their health care provider that they have been camping or out in the wilderness and have been exposed to rodents and fleas. Plague is treatable in its early stages with prompt diagnosis and proper antibiotic treatment. If not treated, plague can be fatal.
In California, plague-infected animals are most likely to be found in the foothills and mountains and to a lesser extent, along the coast. Desert and Central Valley areas are considered low risk for plague. State and local health officials regularly monitor plague-prone areas by testing animals and their fleas. In 2014, non-human plague activity was detected in animals in seven counties: El Dorado, Mariposa, Modoc, Plumas, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Sierra.
Plague is not transmitted from human to human, unless a patient with plague also has a lung infection and is coughing. There have been no known cases of human-to-human infection in California since 1924. LACDPH and CDPH believe the risk of human-to-human transmission is similarly low in this case.
The last reported cases of human plague in California occurred in 2005 and 2006 in Mono, Los Angeles and Kern counties and all three patients survived following treatment with antibiotics. Since 1970, 42 human cases of plague have been confirmed in California, of which nine were fatal.
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